Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter X.—Steps to Perfection.
Chapter X.—Steps to Perfection.
For knowledge (gnosis), to speak generally, a perfecting of man as man, is consummated by acquaintance with divine things, in character, life, and word, accordant and conformable to itself and to the divine Word. For by it faith is perfected, inasmuch as it is solely by it that the believer becomes perfect. Faith is an internal good, and without searching for God, confesses His existence, and glorifies Him as existent. Whence by starting from this faith, and being developed by it, through the grace of God, the knowledge respecting Him is to be acquired as far as possible.
Now we assert that knowledge (gnosis) differs from the wisdom (σοφία), which is the result of teaching. For as far as anything is knowledge, so far is it certainly wisdom; but in as far as aught is wisdom, it is not certainly knowledge. For the term wisdom appears only in the knowledge of the uttered word.
But it is not doubting in reference to God, but believing, that is the foundation of knowledge. But Christ is both the foundation and the superstructure, by whom are both the beginning and the ends. And the extreme points, the beginning and the end—I mean faith and love—are not taught. But knowledge, conveyed from p. 539 communication through the grace of God as a deposit, is entrusted to those who show themselves worthy of it; and from it the worth of love beams forth from light to light. For it is said, “To him that hath shall be given:” 3589 to faith, knowledge; and to knowledge, love; and to love, the inheritance.
And this takes place, whenever one hangs on the Lord by faith, by knowledge, by love, and ascends along with Him to where the God and guard of our faith and love is. Whence at last (on account of the necessity for very great preparation and previous training in order both to hear what is said, and for the composure of life, and for advancing intelligently to a point beyond the righteousness of the law) it is that knowledge is committed to those fit and selected for it. It leads us to the endless and perfect end, teaching us beforehand the future life that we shall lead, according to God, and with gods; after we are freed from all punishment and penalty which we undergo, in consequence of our sins, for salutary discipline. After which redemption the reward and the honours are assigned to those who have become perfect; when they have got done with purification, and ceased from all service, though it be holy service, and among saints. Then become pure in heart, and near to the Lord, there awaits them restoration to everlasting contemplation; and they are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour.
Knowledge is therefore quick in purifying, and fit for that acceptable transformation to the better. Whence also with ease it removes [the soul] to what is akin to the soul, divine and holy, and by its own light conveys man through the mystic stages of advancement; till it restores the pure in heart to the crowning place of rest; teaching to gaze on God, face to face, with knowledge and comprehension. For in this consists the perfection of the gnostic soul, in its being with the Lord, where it is in immediate subjection to Him, after rising above all purification and service.
Faith is then, so to speak, a comprehensive knowledge of the essentials; 3590 and knowledge is the strong and sure demonstration of what is received by faith, built upon faith by the Lords teaching, conveying [the soul] on to infallibility, science, and comprehension. And, in my view, the first saving change is that from heathenism to faith, as I said before; and the second, that from faith to knowledge. And the latter terminating in love, thereafter gives the loving to the loved, that which knows to that which is known. And, perchance, such an one has already attained the condition of “being equal to the angels.” 3591 Accordingly, after the highest excellence in the flesh, changing always duly to the better, he urges his flight to the ancestral hall, through the holy septenniad [of heavenly abodes] to the Lords own mansion; to be a light, steady, and continuing eternally, entirely and in every part immutable.
The first mode of the Lords operation mentioned by us is an exhibition of the recompense resulting from piety. Of the very great number of testimonies that there are, I shall adduce one, thus summarily expressed by the prophet David: “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? He who is guiltless in his hands, and pure in his heart; who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, or sworn deceitfully to his neighbour. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour. This is the generation of them that seek the Lord, that seek the face of the God of Jacob.” 3592 The prophet has, in my opinion, concisely indicated the Gnostic. David, as appears, has cursorily demonstrated the Saviour to be God, by calling Him “the face of the God of Jacob,” who preached and taught concerning the Spirit. Wherefore also the apostle designates as “the express image (χαρακτῆρα) of the glory of the Father” 3593 the Son, who taught the truth respecting God, and expressed the fact that the Almighty is the one and only God and Father, “whom no man knoweth but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him.” 3594 That God is one is intimated by those “who seek the face of the God of Jacob;” whom being the only God, our Saviour and God characterizes as the Good Father. And “the generation of those that seek Him” is the elect race, devoted to inquiry after knowledge. Wherefore also the apostle says, “I shall profit you nothing, unless I speak to you, either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophecy, or by doctrine.” 3595
Although even by those who are not Gnostics some things are done rightly, yet not according to reason; as in the case of fortitude. For some who are naturally high-spirited, and have afterwards without reason fostered this disposition, rush to many things, and act like brave men, so as sometimes to succeed in achieving the same things; just as endurance is easy for mechanics. But it is not from the same cause, or with the same object; not were they to give their whole body. “For they have not love,” according to the apostle. 3596p. 540
All the action, then, of a man possessed of knowledge is right action; and that done by a man not possessed of knowledge is wrong action, though he observe a plan; since it is not from reflection that he acts bravely, nor does he direct his action in those things which proceed from virtue to virtue, to any useful purpose.
The same holds also with the other virtues. So too the analogy is preserved in religion. Our Gnostic, then, not only is such in reference to holiness; but corresponding to the piety of knowledge are the commands respecting the rest of the conduct of life. For it is our purpose at present to describe the life of the Gnostic, 3597 not to present the system of dogmas, which we shall afterwards explain at the fitting time, preserving the order of topics.
Luke xix. 26.539:3590
[Τῶν κατεπειγόντων γνῶσις. This definition must be borne in mind. It destroys all pretences that anything belonging to the faith, i.e., dogma, might belong to an esoteric system.]539:3591
Luke xx. 36.539:3592
Ps. xxiv. 3-6.539:3593
Heb. i. 3.539:3594
Matt. xi. 27.539:3595
1 Cor. xiv. 6.539:3596
1 Cor. xiii. 3.540:3597
[Here, also, the morality of the true Gnostic is distinguished from the system of dogmas, την τῶν δογμάτων θεωρίαν. Elucidation II.]
Next: Chapter XI.—Description of the Gnostics Life.
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